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On the Job With Michael McCoy

Michael McCoy is assistant administrator for Dougherty County. (Nov. 30, 2012)

Michael McCoy is assistant administrator for Dougherty County. (Nov. 30, 2012)

Almost from the start, Michael McCoy wanted to be in public administration. He prepared for himself for the role and waited for his opportunity. It was Divine providence, he said, when his second try for the assistant county administrator post yielded positive results. A Texas transplant, McCoy has come a long way from his days of mowing lawns in his early “parachute pants.” He runs, cycles, golfs and cooks breakfast for his family. If he ever tires of south Georgia government he’d love to be a U.S. senator. Recently, McCoy took some time to speak with Herald reporter, Jim West.

The McCoy File

AGE: 42

POSITION: Assistant county administrator, Dougherty County

FAMILY: Wife, Mona; two children ages 8 and 11

EDUCATION: Prairie View A&M, Texas; Clark Atlanta University

Q. What was your first job?

A. Mowing the lawn at home, for which I was not paid. I was around ten years old. My first paying job was when I mowed the lawn for one of my Sunday school teachers.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. Something my father considered a luxury and irresponsible — some parachute pants. They were a fad in the ‘80s.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Since 2010, salaries have been down, so we’ve tried to find non-monetary ways to retain staff. A method that’s been beneficial and effective for me is communicating with employees, so periodically I’ll select an employee to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes talking to — usually about non-business related topics. I’ve found that when staff understands that when the boss is sincerely concerned about them and things that they’re interested in, they tend to be more motivated and productive.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to do what you’re doing now?

A. I would say Divine Providence. I went to school for public administration and certainly wanted to be in city or county management. But I didn’t have any direct control over when that would actually happen. I competed for this role twice and the second time around, I was successful.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Yes, not in a formal sense, but I’m very fortunate to work with and be around very experienced, knowledgeable administrators.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. The biggest lesson is the importance of forecasting, especially around budget management. That’s extremely critical for any organization. You have keep an eye on your revenues and expenses to make sure they add up. If they don’t, you need to come up with a solution to make sure they do.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. I wouldn’t want to see any of it go away. I must admit, I was very reluctant to embrace the smart phone. But today, I’m a big fan of it.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. The smart phone. It allows me to stay connected.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. I most look forward to going home annually and participating in my family traditions in Waco, Texas.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book I read was “Coming Apart” by Charles Daily. I read the newspaper, blogs, program transcripts — that type of thing.

Q. I’m up and going by ...? And what is your morning routine?

A. Usually I’m up around 5 a.m., head to the YMCA, work out, head home, help my wife with the kids, cook breakfast, drop the kids off and head to work.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. I’d like to meet Elijah McCoy, noted African-American inventor of the automatic lubrication mechanism for trains. The now-famous expression “the real McCoy” was coined by machinists and engineers who wanted his high quality. I’d like to thank him for making our surname synonymous with high quality.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I enjoy cycling, running and playing golf.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I wouldn’t take back anything. I’ve worked very very hard to make informed and rational decisions. Outcomes, whether desired or not, are part of the learning process and I’ve learned a lot.

Q. What’s the best thing about your job?

A. It’s exciting. There’s always a new opportunity to make a difference for the citizens of Dougherty County and make an impact on the lives of citizens. I very much enjoy the results of public policy and the work that we do.

Q. What’s the worst thing about your job?

A. I can’t think of anything. I love it. I love interacting with the people.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was ...?

A. It was economics. The management of scarce resources is applicable in every aspect of life. I think that it’s a very important concept to understand.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I’d like to be a U.S. senator.

Q. Finish this thought: “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself ...”

A. In a second career to keep my mind stimulated and learning new things.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Foresight is a strong business trait that leaders can’t afford to be without because we must continuously plan for tomorrow.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. As we’ve all witnessed, this economic downturn has been unparalleled. Also, we know that in great recessions, the economy was over-inflated, due to the machinations in the credit markets. So our economic recovery will be slow but more stable in the coming years.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I like a lot of different genres of music, so you’d find house music, you’d find a little soul, jazz, golden era hip hop, rock and dance hall.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I think that generation Xers and millenials will play a greater role in leadership in this community.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. My best vacations happen annually — during the second week in July. It’s a time my family reunions are held. We convene in different cities throughout the country. For me it’s the best time ever and next year we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The biggest change has been chronic and severely constrained budgets. When I first started my career in municipal management, surplus budgets were not an infrequent occurrence. Over this past six year, however, surplus budgets have been almost non-existent. We’re living in an a new-normal and therefore we’ve had to learn to do less with less.